I’ve been in a creative funk for the better part of two years now. While I’ve kept up on my blog and done a lot of writing for work, I haven’t done much more than noodle ideas and complain on the page as far as other writing is concerned. I’ve also been diddling around with my art, not producing much of consequence. It’s a frustrating place to be.
On a positive note, I have been experimenting with a new art form, bookbinding, reading a lot (the basis of good writing, yes?), and noodling ideas (both a positive & negative, depending on your perspective). I seem to be in a phase of refilling the creative well, so to speak. Recharging the batteries, transfusing the blood, gathering ingredients (pick your analogy).
During this fallow time, I have come to the conclusion that I don’t have a “thing.” Most creative types have a “thing,” an easily articulated form they become known for.
Austin Kleon has Newspaper Blackout.
Amy Tan has Asian-American ficiton. (You must read the Myths & Legends page on her website. Her name is linked to the site.)
Christopher Moore has humorous fantastical fiction.
Stephen King has horror and suspense.
J.K. Rowling has Harry Potter.
Clare Dudman has historical fiction with a scientific or technological bent.
The Coen Brothers have quirky movies with deep stories and interesting music.
Jeff Nelson has the Royal Ersatz Cartographic Society. (He draws imaginary maps.)
Michael Bahl does Paleo-osteological Interpretation. (He creates life-size dinosaurs out of the bones of other animals.)
Lady Gaga has … well, Lady Gaga is a definition unto herself. Her “thing” is her.
I, on the other hand, don’t seem to have a “thing” because I jump around too much from “thing” to “thing.” That doesn’t mean I don’t think I have a distinctive style. I do, in both writing and art. But I don’t have an easily articulated “thing,” a “thing” that everyone recognizes me for. At least I don’t think I have a “thing.” Do I? (For those of you who know me best, I’m hoping for some enlightenment here.)
What about you? Do you have a “thing?” You don’t have to be an artist or writer to have a “thing.” Maybe your “thing” is knitting or playing hopscotch or gardening. Please share your “thing” in the comments and let me know how you know it’s your “thing.”
[Addendum, August 15, 2011: I just read a great blog post by Susan Alexander on Lateral Action. It’s called “How Neil Young Became the First Artist to Get Sued for Not Being Himself” and it discusses how varied Young’s musical career has been. It’s a great lesson for those of us who don’t have just one “thing.”